Elizabeth Montagu
and the Bluestocking Circle
         is Funded by the AHRC

Elizabeth Montagu Letters


The Elizabeth Montagu and the Bluestocking Circle Project currently has a call for papers for a special issue of Women's Writing - see under NEWS.

Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) was famous in her lifetime as a Shakespeare critic, salon hostess and champion of womens writing.

Christened "Queen of the Bluestockings" by Samuel Johnson, Montagu attracted the leading writers, politicians and artists of her day to her sparkling London assemblies, where she placed a new emphasis on conversation as a pleasurable and enlightened pursuit. Her guests included Joshua Reynolds, George, Lord Lyttelton, David and Eva Garrick, William Pulteney, Earl of Bath, Horace Walpole, Edmund Burke, Elizabeth Carter and Samuel Johnson, and later Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Hannah More and Fanny Burney.

In her richly decorated London homes, Montagu aimed to bring together sensual and intellectual pleasure, and to allow talents of many kinds to flourish. Her salon became sought out as a shrine that was supposedly free from the party politics that dominated court culture. Here Montagu nurtured a rising generation of metropolitan intellectuals, writers and artists. She was a public figure within eighteenth-century culture, whose achievements not only illuminate the history of several important aspects (and locations) of her age but also bring together a number of connected lives. She placed herself at the heart of several important networks of the age, with the ability to bestow favour in a regal manner.

As she wrote in a letter to her fellow bluestocking hostess Mrs Vesey in 1781, We have lived with the wisest, the best, and the most celebrated men of our Times, and with some of the best, most accomplished, most learned Women of any times. (MO 6566, Sep 21, 1781, Elizabeth Montagu to Elizabeth Vesey, Huntington Library).



‘The Material Culture of Women’s Writing’ – a special issue of Women’s Writing ISSN 0969-9082


Editor: Caroline Franklin


From salons to closets and glamour to grammar, to quills, desks and inkwells, this special issue of Women’s Writing will explore the tools, spaces and environments of women’s writing between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries and aims to create new connections between texts and material objects. It takes as its inspiration the figure of Elizabeth Montagu, ‘Queen of the Bluestockings’ (1718-1800), a voracious writer, Shakespeare critic, coal owner, cultural patron and bluestocking salonnière, who was the hub of an immense circle of women’s scribal culture intersecting with print publishing. Topics may include but are not limited to: epistolary culture, networks, penmanship, libraries, copying machines, manuals, paper, postal system and digitization.


Please submit articles of 4,000-7,000 words to Professor Caroline Franklin at Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, or to C.franklin@swansea.ac.uk by 31 August 2013. Details of the journal’s house style can be found on the Women’s Writing web site http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/0999082.asp








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Bluestocking Circle

The Bluestocking Circle was a group of writers, artists and thinkers who met in the London homes of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen. These fashionable hostesses invented a new kind of informal sociability and nurtured a sense of intellectual community. The term "bluestocking" evolved from the scholar Benjamin Stillingfleet's decision to abandon formal evening dress and obey Vesey's call to "Come in your blue stockings." Guests included the leading literary, political and cultural figures of the day, including Elizabeth Carter, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, David and Eva Garrick and later Hannah More and Frances Burney.

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